growing up

Growing up is hard.

Watching my little boy develop and mature and become aware of more and more of life's intricacies is thrilling but also hard. He's only 2. My heart says that's practically still a baby, but my head can objectively see that this is so far from the truth. Mom-ing is emotionally hard for irrational reasons.

When Lucas turned 6 months old, it was quite the emotional milestone for me. He was sitting up and starting to move about and was sprouting his first toothbuds. He was legitimately not an infant anymore and it was difficult for my heart to accept. But time moved on, and the emotions eventually softened.

Somehow, his first birthday wasn't an emotional one for me. I was quite pleased with my newly walking, adorable as two red pandas, dancing chubster. Reaching the one year mark was just another day in the life of Lucas. The same went for his second birthday - no tears shed, no scrunched heart feelings, just normal acceptance of "He keeps getting older like he's supposed to!" I thought maybe I had lost the new mom feelings, the gut-squeezing desire for my child to stay tiny forever, or that somehow my emotional bond was becoming weaker/less emotional/more realistic as time passed.

But then when Lucas was 2 years 3 months 6 days old, he weaned. He nursed for the last time and never looked back. He didn't even have the courtesy to tell me it was the last time so that I could savor it. It was... devastating. I know that sounds dramatic, and my emotions may have been amped up from being 14 weeks pregnant, but it was a ridiculously emotional time for me. The slightest thought of anything related to nursing just set off the tears and feels. On the one hand, it was a relief to know that the mom emotions were definitely still present and strong. Clearly they were just casually lying in wait for the right gut-punching moment. But on the other hand, I felt like I had lost something so vital and so significant in my bond with Lucas, that now I was somehow less of a mom to him, and it was rough. Mom-ing is so emotionally hard for irrational reasons.

Since the Weaning of 2016, I have watched my munchkin just grow by leaps and bounds. Somehow he is surviving on normal people foods. He can deftly use his spoon to scrape off the tiniest pieces of food from his chin into his mouth. Our games of "chase" now require exerting energy and effort to catch him. He can repeat back word for word multiple sentences that we had no idea he was even listening to [which is always frightening]. He can make up elaborate stories and songs and thinks up questions that amaze me. He is a wonder. He is a full-blown kid, with almost zero baby-like tendencies.

Well, except for his swaddle.

His swaddle? Yes, his swaddle. That handy little velcro-wrap that you use on infants to keep their arms from flailing around and accidentally waking themselves. The piece of fabric that only goes up to a size Large for babies up to 6 months, maybe 9. The green and forest-animal-covered swaddle that can only barely be attached around his waist, that often comes un-velcroed in the middle of the night causing much sadness, and that we have had to sew up multiple times because his feet have worn through the bottom so that it's more of a skirt instead of a cozy leg burrito.That swaddle. Lucas, at the ripe old age of 32 months, weighing in at 30 pounds and measuring 3 feet tall, has to wear his swaddle every single time he goes to sleep.

That is, until tonight.

Cue the pregnant mama melodrama. When he decided, out of the blue, that he didn't want his swaddle tonight, something inside me crumbled. I don't know why. We have been trying for months upon months to get him to move past his swaddle stage, but every night we have lost the battle and we had honestly just given up and resigned ourselves to a leg-swaddled teenager. [We may have discussed multiple times making larger homemade swaddles to accommodate his growing legs... In all seriousness.] The swaddled legs gave him some kind of comfort and was apparently a very important part of his bedtime routine. It was one of those things that presented no real problem and just a little bit of inconvenience, so why fight it? Pick your battles. We apparently value an easy put down at bedtime over the appearance of a "normal" toddler. This should not be surprising at all.

Anyway. When I heard him say he didn't want his swaddle, my insides lurched. Who is this child and where did you put my baby? As we went through the bedtime routine, I kept expecting the swaddle demands to start but... they never did. And so here I sit, looking into the video monitor with a bird's eye view of my fast asleep, swaddle-less, legs-free son. And I don't know what to do with myself. It is so ridiculous to want to cry, but I have to keep squelching that tightening feeling in my throat. You hear about the milestones that your baby goes through, the first laughs and first steps and first words and first birthdays, but you never hear about the little milestones. The last time you look at your baby before seeing him as a toddler. The last time you have to comb sweet potato out of his hair. The last time you have to show him how to jump with both feet in the air. And the last time you have to make him suck in his big ol' belly to securely velcro him into his swaddle. Mom-ing is so, so incredibly emotionally hard for irrational reasons.

I feel guilty. For telling him to be a big boy. For always making him do things he clearly doesn't want to do. For gently manipulating him into thinking he wants to do something when it's really just me who wants him to do it. For always prompting him to be better, to learn and understand more, to see things from a rational point of view... In essence, to keep growing up. I feel guilty.

But at the same time, I feel pride. Every time Lucas excitedly "gets" something. Every time he joyfully sings the alphabet song. Every time he says, "I am impressed with myself." Every time he comes running up to me with his latest potty training report. Every time he corrects his own grammar. Every time he asks a ridiculously complex question. Every time he randomly thanks us for performing some menial favor - "Thank you, Mommy, for cutting my apple in little pieces for me to eat." Every time he makes just one more toddling step toward Big Kid-ness. I feel so much pride.

Mom-ing is emotionally hard for me, and it's a double whammy because I am not a huge fan of emotion. It is a constant balancing act between valleys of guilt and peaks of pride and joy and utter fulfillment. I would love to say, "I wouldn't have it any other way," but that probably wouldn't be true. I'd love for it to be all joy and giggles and good feelings and no tantrums and somehow keep my son simultaneously a baby and a capable, self-sufficient big kid. But I suppose this way, the real-life way, is better. Because with every step that Lucas makes into the world of Big Kid, I take an equal step of growth into Mom-ness with all of its heart-pounding excitement and gut-wrenching heartache.

We're both growing up and it can be hard sometimes, but I honestly could not have asked for a better little pal to do it with. Cheers, buddy. You are truly one of a kind.

Lucas loves putting clips in my hair - hair clips or chip clips, it doesn't seem to  matter to him.

You will always be my little boy.